By Todd Wills
Corsicana Daily Sun
Draylon Sterling has it down. He can talk like a running back and a safety at the same time.
Just listen to his answer when he’s asked what he likes more — offense, where he needs 86 yards to reach 2,000 for the season, or safety, where he has 128 tackles and four interceptions this season.
“I take more pride in defense,” said Sterling, fittingly as the sun was setting to the west Tuesday night after practice, creating a scene out of “Friday Night Lights.”
“I like to hit people,” Sterling said. “It feels good to hit people. I don’t like being hit to be honest with you. I hate being hit. If I have to take a hit to get us a first down or a touchdown or a win, I’ll do it for the team.”
Trust him, he’ll take a hit, or deliver one, when he’s a ballcarrier.
And when he’s playing safety, he’ll come up to the line of scrimmage and crush you. Just ask Sonora’s Darian Lopez, who got walloped by Sterling in the first half of Mildred’s 28-14 state-semifinal win.
Sterling, who on Monday made the Class 2A All-State team for the second year in a row, could have easily been an Offensive or Defensive Player of the Year selection. He’ll happily take helping Mildred reach Thursday night’s Class 2A Division II State Championship Game against East Bernard at Cowboys Stadium.
“He’s excelled on both sides of the ball this year,” Mildred coach Patrick Harvell said. “This year the crazy thing is the number of hits he delivers as opposed to other people. He’s tough, hard-nosed and physical.”
That started as a little kid, said Draylon’s mother Teresa.
“He’s always been a roughhouse kid,” Teresa said. “He started playing in kindergarten. He’s a rough tough kid.”
Teresa played basketball, ran track and was a cheerleader at Blooming Grove, so Draylon was born into a sports family. She remembers him first playing Pee Wee football for Shane Davis in the Grove. The family moved to Mildred when he was in the fifth grade.
Draylon was an active kid. He played every sport — he also plays for Mildred’s basketball team and runs track.
“I knew from up the beginning that he would be good,” Teresa said. “He was playing around all the time. He got his speed from his momma.”
Draylon uses that speed to his advantages. He can burn opposing defenses on sweeps and inside handoffs. He has 34 touchdowns. He can catch passes out of the backfield — he has 20 receptions for 368 yards and four more TDs.
He’s learning how the speed and quickness of opposing defenses impact him as Mildred gets deeper into the playoffs. Sonora was able to keep him from getting to the outside. Nocona did the week before.
“I can’t always outrun defensive backs or linemen to the outside,” Draylon said. “Some times you have to stick your nose in there and get the one or two yards. It’s not a lot yardage, but it’s more yards than you had before. The defenses are getting faster.”
A 15-minute conversation with Draylon tells you he’s obsessed with winning. He’s not focused on 2,000 yards.
“It doesn’t matter if I get it,” he said. “As long as we get a win it’s fine with me.”
Talk about defense, and he gets a smile on his face and talks a little faster.
Mildred’s defense had a great game last week against Sonora, holding the running-oriented Broncos to 48 yards in the first 43 minutes of the game.
Draylon had eight tackles and helped established that Mildred was going to be the more physical team. It’s something that he carries over into practice, Harvell said.
“We have to pull him back and get him to quit hitting people,” Harvell said. “He doesn’t just hit on Fridays. He hits on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.”
Draylon likes to hit at home too, playing football with little brother Dacoby, who is nine. “They play football all the time,” Teresa said. “He’s like his shadow.”
Draylon has another brother, Dequalon, who is 16, and the family is enjoying every minute of this Mildred playoff run.
“Words can’t describe how proud I am,” Teresa said. “Every time I think about it I just smile.”
His teammates look to him on Fridays to make plays, Harvell said.
And Draylon wants to oblige him.
“I feel like when I touch the ball I have a chance to take it to the house to be honest with you,” Draylon said. “I can’t think that way but that’s how I think.”